Did you know that 41 percent of renters in Buncombe County now pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing? According to the Consolidated Strategic Housing and Community Development Plan, the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has the most expensive housing of any MSA in North Carolina, even though the median income is below the state figure and hourly wages are well below state averages.
When the Smithfield family rented a home last year, the landlord promised them the property would be up to code within two months. However, as the months passed by, still no work had been done. The Smithfields and their four children were living in substandard housing, and cold air was coming in through the broken windows and damaged front door.
Mrs. Smithfield worked long hours as a nurse, and Mr. Smithfield stayed at home with the kids due to a disability. He did what he could to make repairs himself, but he was unable to adequately complete the job. After repeated complaints to the landlord, the Smithfields contacted County Housing Code Enforcement and the landlord was cited for several code infractions.
Desperate to find a new home, Mr. Smithfield called 2-1-1, United Way’s community service information line. The family had a little money saved to use toward moving into a new place, but it wasn’t going to be enough for a security deposit, down payment and other moving expenses. He was hoping there might be some assistance out there to help bridge the gap.
After sharing with James, a 2-1-1 referral specialist, the roadblocks they had faced, mostly because of miscommunications and lack of sufficient information, James was able to connect the family to a housing assistance program for families or individuals dealing with chronic illness or disabilities. When James called back soon after, a tearful Mrs. Smithfield thankfully reported that their paperwork had been pushed through because of the circumstances and the family was in the process of moving into a new place as they spoke.
Stories like the Smithfields’ are why United Way is focusing on Income as one of the building blocks of a good life for everyone, along with Education and Health. United Way has invested more than $263,000 to make sure people can meet their basic needs and almost $160,000 to make sure people can live in safe, affordable housing. As a result of those investments in community partners providing basic needs assistance (including rent assistance) and in community partners providing home repairs and preventing unlawful evictions and substandard living conditions, more than 12,900 people will meet their basic needs and more than 330 people will secure safe, affordable housing.